No one asks for them. No one wants them. However, suffering times are present in everyone's life eventually. We live in a fallen world, where death, sickness, natural disasters, wars, and misunderstandings abound. Whether you are suffering a small or big loss now or have suffered recently, join us as we talk about how to wisely get through the suffering times. Paul understands suffering, and his words in God's Word will ground us in the midst of the pain.
Speaker 1 (00:02):
It is time for a pause in your day. Welcome to a podcast where we press the pause button on our busy lives for a few moments, and we focus on God’s word With Sharon and Nicole. We pray this is a time of refreshing for you. The Sweet Selah Moments Podcast is a cooperative production of Word Radio and Sweet Selah Ministries.
Welcome to the Sweet Selah Moments Podcast. This is episode 114, The Suffering Times. We are spending most of Season eight studying the two letters Paul wrote to the church at Thessalonica in Greece. At the beginning of this study, we read about Paul’s first meeting with the people of Thessalonica, first in the synagogue, and later at Jason’s house when some of the Jewish people in the synagogue rejected Paul’s message that Jesus was indeed Messiah. And this poor little church had barely begun when Jason and others were arrested and made to pay a fine, all for believing in Jesus. Sharon, why does believing in Jesus upset people so much?
It’s weird, isn’t it, Nicole? Jesus comes bringing a message of salvation, forgiveness. He doesn’t hurt people. He doesn’t form an army to persecute individuals or amass huge wealth so that people would be jealous of him. Jesus was humble. He was kind, poor, good, and yet he was rejected, and he still is today. You know, I think part of the reason is that we have an enemy who actively seeks to turn people against the living Lord. And I think part of it is that people don’t want to believe that Jesus is Lord, because that means we have to submit to him, right? It’s also exclusive. He’s the only name by which we may be saved, and at least in our culture and back then too, nobody, nobody wants one way they would like to make some choices. Thank you very much.
Sort of the consumer religion.
A buffet of sorts.
Yeah. So, but it’s still disturbing that Christians are actively persecuted. Christians that are called to love and be kind. So. Back in Thessalonica and now in many parts of the world today, this is what happens. So how about you? Have you ever, I mean, we’re in America here. Have you ever suffered for your faith?
Honestly, nothing too terribly growing up. Maybe a few names or teasing comments in college, but really nothing terrible, which is amazing to be able to say that, you know.
But I feel like I find that I’m more heavy hearted watching my girls struggle more than I ever did, and so young. They’ve already had to defend their faith, and I’ve had to coach them in that. And that’s been hard to see as a mom, but nothing when I was younger.
No, I know. I feel like I was pretty blessed too. In fact, I almost feel guilty, you know, we were born in a place where, and in a community where, ’cause Christians are persecuted in United States too, but in a community where it wasn’t such a big deal. But I was in high school kind of definitely over the top about Jesus. Right? I started this Bible study. I wanted everyone to be saved. I preached at bus stops. So I did get a little persecution, Surprise, surprise. I was labeled a Jesus freak. And that’s how Ray, you know, first knew me was as the Jesus freak of the school.
Oh, that’s so cute.
So he used to call me Freak in the hallway.
Oh, he just dropped the Jesus part.
This was before I fell in love with him for sure. I’d be at my locker or something and he’d walk by and go, Freak.
Isn’t that funny?
Well, that’s when he was the atheist, remember? (Nicole: Right) Before my Ray came to know Jesus, so some students just kind of stayed away, because, you know, I was very vocal. So, and then here I joined a book club many years ago in our hometown, and my opinions were not popular there either. And I’m like, okay. So this book club where I’m hoping to be a good witness, I can’t read the books that they’re suggesting, because they have parts in them that I feel are inappropriate for me to read. (Right) And they don’t wanna read my books even though I’m not choosing Christian books because they’re too nice. Right? So that did not go well.
No. What do you do?
So, but many people around the globe are suffering far, far worse. This is, you know, talk about first world problems, this is first world problem persecution. This is nothing compared to what other people are coming to. So, but it could be coming to us as well. In fact, as you were saying, your children are feeling it more than you did.
My grandchildren will be. The time is coming (Nicole: It is) when there may be genuine suffering here. So I’m eager to read today’s passage and learn from Paul’s references to suffering in this baby church. So let’s start.
Let’s start with that. All right. So today we’re reading from 1 Thessalonians 13-20. And I’ll start with verse 13, and then Sharon will alternate. “So therefore, we never stop thanking God that when you received his message from us, you didn’t think of our words as mere human ideas. You accepted what we said as the very word of God, which of course it is. And this word continues to work in you who believe.”
“And then dear brothers and sisters, you suffered persecution from your own countrymen. In this way, you imitated the believers in God’s churches in Judea, who because of their belief in Christ Jesus suffered from their own people, the Jews.”
“For some of the Jews killed the prophets and some even killed the Lord Jesus. Now they have persecuted us too. They fail to please God and work against all humanity.”
“As they try to keep us from preaching the good news of salvation to the Gentiles. By doing this, they continue to pile up their sins, but the anger of God has caught up with them at last.”
“Dear brothers and sisters, after we were separated from you for a little while, though our hearts never left you, we tried very hard to come back because of our intense longing to see you again.”
“We wanted very much to come to you. And I, Paul tried again and again, but Satan prevented us.”
“After all, what gives us hope and joy and what will be our proud reward and crown as we stand before our Lord Jesus when he returns? It is you.”
“Yes. You are our pride and joy.” I just love Paul.
This is such a good chapter.
I really love reading the whole thing first so we get the context. But let’s go back now and dig deep. You get verse 13 and we’ll rotate on, kind of just pondering the deepness of these verses.
Yeah. All right. So I’m gonna read verse 13 again. “Therefore we never stop thanking God that when you received his message from us, you didn’t think of our words as mere human ideas. You accepted what we said as the very word of God, which of course it is. And this word continues to work in you who believe.” So I think this is so sweet because Paul is writing, but to them, and then he’s saying, I think he’s thankful that they received God’s word. And then he’s also really excited to see that they continue to grow. And I think that’s really important. Sometimes we focus on the evangelistic part of ‘come to Jesus, come to Jesus’.
Good luck. And I mean, sometimes all our part is, is to plant that seed.
But I think this is really neat that he’s kind of checking back in and then he’s really excited to see the work continue in them too.
I love that. Yeah. And that is so important. You’re right. If if, if no one follows up with someone that’s received Christ, they really can flounder. So, wow. That’s good. All right. Well, verse 14, “And then, dear brothers and sisters, you suffered persecution from your own countrymen. In this way you imitated the believers in God’s churches in Judea who because of their belief in Christ Jesus suffered from their own people, the Jews.” So it’s interesting that he’s comparing them to the Jewish people that suffered ’cause some Jewish people believed in Jesus, and some did not. Paul was one of the did nots and was persecuting those that did until Jesus literally blinded him on a road. Got his attention. So, I love the fact that he’s saying, you’re just like us now. Yay. Persecution.
But it also reminds me that our own people will persecute us. People that we would, you know, think would like us. You know, sometimes family members are like keeping their distance from us because they know who we are. Or sometimes, I have a couple of family members who actually make decisions about what I think based on generic Christianity.
Oh, yes. Not actually knowing.
And not on me. Right. Yeah. You must feel this way because I’ve been told in the news that this is how Christians feel, kind of thing, without bothering to check in with me. And that’s hurtful Yeah. To me, because I don’t always feel the way they think I’m going to feel. So, anyways.
It can be tricky.
Yeah. And the more the times get dark, the more likely it is that our own tribe—
You know, either family members or neighborhood or community are gonna look askance at our exclusivity. I mean, we do believe Jesus is the only way.
We do. So.
Yeah. Well, so verse 15 says, “For some of the Jews killed the prophets and some even killed the Lord Jesus. Now they have persecuted us too. They failed to please God and work against all humanity.” So, I was very struck by how heavy a charge that was.
There, we know that our sin doesn’t just affect us, but this feels like it’s affecting a lot of people.
And you think of all humanity, what they were doing to stop the flow of the gospel affects, I mean, even us now.
So true. Yeah.
Because we were, we have received, we’re the Gentiles.
And the word has come to us, but they were trying so hard to stop it. You know, they killed the prophets, they killed Jesus. They’re persecuting the believers. Like, this is affecting all of humanity. ’cause humanity needs to know about Jesus.
Yeah. You know, you wonder what it looked like in the spiritual realm. You know, here’s this baby new church. Jesus is back in heaven. The Holy Spirit is in them, and if they don’t share it, Christianity dies.
Wow. That’s true.
I mean, Jesus left the disciples sort of in charge of spreading the message and Satan’s working overtime.
Trying to squash it while it’s young.
Yeah, exactly. Kill it while it’s young before it spreads to Nicole and Sharon. And, you know?
Thousands of years later, ’cause you’re right, it does affect that. So, yeah. Wow. Yeah. Well, this verse broke in the middle of a sentence, so I pick up the sentence. So I’m gonna read your sentence in verse 15, and then move on to 16,my verse, “They failed to please God and work against all humanity as they try to keep us from preaching the good news of salvation to the Gentiles. By doing this, they continue to pile up their sins. But the anger of God has caught up with them at last.” So this is pretty fierce too. Right? God’s not all mercy. I mean, I love talking about his mercy and his love. That’s like my favorite thing. Right?
That’s the fun part.
But, he is also just, yeah. And, it’s a relief in some ways to know that people don’t get away with it. They really don’t. And nothing makes God angrier than preventing others from hearing the good news that he loves them. You know, sin that hurts people, makes him angry too. But to keep people from salvation. You know, and it makes me think of the verse where it says that when people hurt children or prevent them, it would be better if a millstone was tied around their neck and they’re thrown into the river. You know, because the wrath of God against people that prevent the hearing of the word is, is huge. Because why? Because he loves us. He wants everybody to know him. Don’t prevent people from knowing that I love them and I saved them. Right? So.
No, that’s a good one. The next one is 17. It says, “Dear brothers and sisters, after we were separated from you for a while, though our hearts never left you, we tried very hard to come back because of our intense longing to see you again.” Paul truly loved those he ministered too, didn’t he?
I think that’s why the message was received so well, at least with this church, is because he was so sincere in it, they must have seen his, his love and in his letters. And I love that he practiced what he preached because in Romans, this reminded me of that verse in Romans, it’s Romans 12:9 “Don’t pretend to love others. Really love them.”
That’s such a great verse, isn’t it?
It is. And Paul wrote Romans, so I feel like he really practiced what he preached, and he truly loved them. Like their hearts never left you. And he was separated from them, and he tried really hard to come back ’cause of his intense longing.
They’re like, oh yeah, I’m curious how you’re doing. Like, I have an intense longing to see you. Like that’s a real true love.
Yeah. Yeah. He let himself ache for them. You know, I mean, emotionally he got involved.
Yes, he did.
And you can hear it. I ached. I kept trying to come. All these things. And he was prevented, which is so sad.
I know. I wanna know what happened, what was preventing him.
Like, what was Satan doing to keep him?
I actually have a theory on that.
Oh, do you now?
I was pondering it because I’m like, this is interesting you know? So I’ll go to my, are you done with your verse?
Yeah, that’s it.
Just checking. I’m like, I’m moving on, but then I should check with you. Okay. So verse 18 says, here he goes again. I mean, this whole thing has been, we wanted to come. We wanted to come. Verse 18 says, “We wanted very much to come to you. And I, Paul tried again and again, but Satan prevented it.” So, you know, we win the war, but not every battle is won. Satan stopped Paul from coming. And that fascinates me. Paul’s so strong in the Lord. He knows how to pray. You’d think he could just, you know, win, all the time? But God allowed Satan to prevent him. Because I mean, God’s sovereign, God could smish Satan today if he felt like it. But he allowed it. But this is what I’m wondering. I’m wondering if, you know how Paul had a thorn in his flesh. You know, like painful eyes, something we thought of or something. What if he was sick?
What if he just wanted to come, but he wasn’t healthy enough to travel.
And so he’s like, please make me better. Please make me better. I wanna go see them. I don’t know. Or maybe there wasn’t funding.
That would prevent travel.
That’s true. Yeah. Or like, I was thinking unrest. I don’t know. I was trying to think of what could prevent them. Like some threat, ’cause to prevent you from going someplace you really wanna go, it has to be like you are on your deathbed. Or like really sick.
Or you’re trapped somehow. Or there’s like, unrest in the village and they went to kill him. Like, who knows what it was that prevented it. Funding would keep you there too.
Yeah. But it’s interesting that he attributes it to Satan. That there’s a battle going on. I wanted to come. The enemy stopped me.
Yes. It makes it feel like it’s something more than the normal. Like when I get a cold, I’m not like, oh, Satan’s after me. I don’t go right there. I’m just like, oh, I got caught a cold. I got it from my kids. Whatever. I’ll feel better. But for him to say Satan prevented him, it must have been pretty intense.
There’s a warfare going on. Yeah. Yeah. I’m kind of glad I don’t see the spiritual realm all the time, because I think it’d be really scary.
I don’t think I’d leave my bed if I could see what was going on.
But sometimes, you know, we, I think we just think, well, we’re Christians, we’re the victors, da da da da. Which we are. But, and we don’t hav to be afraid of Satan, but sometimes he wins a battle or two.
Yeah. Very interesting.
But I love that Paul doesn’t give up. It’s not like, oh, wow. Satan won. Huh-uh. He just keeps fighting back.
He tries again and again.
Again and again, and again and again. And that’s a good lesson to me. Don’t give up. Try again and again and again. So I really like that part.
Well, verse 19 says, “After all, what gives us hope and joy and what will be our proud reward and crown as we stand before our Lord Jesus, when he returns? It is you.”
Isn’t that the sweetest thing?
He just sounds like a proud dad.
He does. I was thinking this feels like what I would say to my children. You know, it gives me hope and joy. So the fact that he’s not counting on his own accolades, and I did this and I saved these people, and he’s so happy that they have received God’s word.
That they are growing.
They are his joy and his hope. Seeing God’s word flourish in other people.
That’s a beautiful thing.
It’s a beautiful thing.
And again, I think we get a glimpse of Paul’s heart to truly follow God and to honor God, because he’s rejoicing in the things that, I feel like this is something Jesus would say to us.
Yes, It is. It’s so lovely.
We are his crown and reward. It’s beautiful.
Yeah. Yeah. And you know, now I’m thinking maybe God allowed Satan to prevent because God wanted them to grow without Paul.
And maybe get the confidence that they could grow with the Holy Spirit in them, not without Paul kind of guiding them the whole way.
Yeah, yeah. This kind of stabs at me because sometimes I feel like I’m more essential than I am.
Don’t we all though?
Well, you need me.
It’s like, oh, guess what? God can work even if you’re not there.
Yeah. He’s very capable.
Yeah. So that’s just, I just kind of thought of that thought just now. That’s kind of fun.
So, as if your verse 19 wasn’t enough, we move on to verse 20. “Yes, says Paul, You are our pride and joy.” So what sweet praise. Why pride? Well, he’s proud of them because they accepted the cost of following Christ. They didn’t just go, oh, yay, I’m gonna have an easy life ’cause I accepted Jesus. They saw from the earliest days as we know, following Christ because it’s the truth (NIcole: Yes) is always right, but it is not always easy. And he’s proud of them because they believed that long term, this is the only answer and the only way, even though short term they’re suffering for it. They would’ve been quote, better off without God.
Right. Right. We were fine before.
In the material sense of the word. I mean, I don’t know that probably the joy they felt just with Christ within them, you know, was worth it even with the suffering. But just, you know, from a non-Christian perspective, that’s, it’s so, so that’s kind of the pride. And then the joy. Well, ’cause Paul really likes them. They just make him happy.
He seems to. He really does, yeah.
So I just thought that was the sweetest thing. And I love how he mixes the hard in this passage of, I wanna come, I wanna come, Satan is preventing me. Suffering, suffering, suffering with, I’m just so proud of you. It’s such a good mix.
Yeah, he’s such a good encourager.
He is. He is.
He has a good balance of like, Hey, you are suffering. I’m suffering. Satan is real. There’s a battle going on.
But I’m really proud of you and you are growing and you are doing well. And that’s so important.
It is. I know. And I think it’s good to acknowledge the hard, which he does. But then he is like, but whatever.
Because you guys are doing good anyway.
Yeah. So just so fun. So, oh, that was cool. That was a cool passage. So now we go to our three questions. So what was your favorite verse out of these verses and why was it your favorite? That is question number one.
All right. Let me find verse 13 in my paper. Oh, I picked 13 and I’ll read it again ’cause it’s so good. “Therefore, we never stopped thanking God that when you received his message from us, you didn’t think of our words as mere human ideas. You accepted what we said as the very word of God.” Which of course it is. I love that part.
I do too.
Which of course it is. “And this word continues to work in you who believe” I like this verse because it feels like this beautiful example of the message of the cross, the message of salvation. (Sharon: Yes. Yes) It’s presented to us. It’s God’s word, when we accept it, the very word of God, it continues to work in those who believe. (Yes) It just feels like a nice summing up of what happens in us when we hear the word of God. God loves you. He died for you, he forgave you. (Yes. Yes) Wow. We take that inside and we hold onto that truth and that’s what transforms.
It is. It is. I chose the same verse.
Why am I not surprised? I’m like, amening everything you’re saying.
I wonder if we should consult before the podcast so we get two verses in. But same thing, we obviously, we believe that the word is important. Every podcast is about God’s word because that’s where we’re safest. Not with our words. But the fact that the word works in us was the kind of the phrase that really got to me. When I do my morning quiet time and I’m reading the word, you know, it’s not like every day I have this great epiphany of new stuff. Right? But it’s working in me. It’s teaching me truths, you know? That will stick with me and stay with me. And that, that this work that’s even hidden, I think.
That I don’t even know about and comes out later, you know?
Yes. That is a really interesting way about God. Cause sometimes we want him to fix our anger issues right away or fix this problem right away. And so sometimes when you just sit with him on that faithful daily basis, you’ll just look back and be like, oh my word, I used to be really, whatever? And now I’m not. Like, how did this happen God?
It was in those quiet moments.
It is gradual. Gradual learning day after day.
Yeah. And that’s so cool that sometimes he does strike us and we are like, Paul, stop persecuting Christians and start talking to them about me. And he did it.
Sometimes God will grab us and say, enough of that. Do this instead. And sometimes it’s a, it’s a slow change though.
Yes. Yes. Yes.
So we have to be open to both and how God wants to work with us.
Yeah. Yeah. But if we don’t go to the word, if we don’t read it, it can’t work within us. God can’t work within us. (Nicole: Right) So his word is living and active. It is living, it is so different from any other book. And we have got to be in it. We do.
Yes. We desperately need it.
Yeah. So evidently we both needed to say that. About the same verse.
But it’s cool that we still got a different perspective on the same verse. God’s word is living and it speaks to us.
How we need it. I love that.
Yeah. So what did we learn about God from this passage? Well, I’ll go first this time. Number one, I learned again that he allows suffering. Mm. He didn’t prevent Satan from preventing whatever it was that kept Paul in place when Paul was dying to get back to the Thessalonians. Like, I got shoved out of there so fast and I wanna teach them more. They don’t know everything they should know. Ladi ladi dah. But God allowed that suffering. And I think it’s important for me to remember that, God sometimes chooses suffering for me. And I just have to accept it. And even more sometimes he allows Satan, some victories.
It is tough.
That’s tough to swallow.
Yes. Yes. It is.
Just squash him now.
Right. Right. And the third thing for me that just fascinated me was how super angry God gets at people who prevent others from hearing about salvation. That is fascinating to me. That this is what makes God mad. The Pharisees made him mad because the Pharisees had all these rules that keep kept people from actually knowing God. Because they had to obey all these rules. Right. This is what makes God mad. We cannot prevent people from hearing about him. It’s like a really bad thing to do.
That is. Now there’s a verse in Proverbs that talks about like six things that the Lord despises, no, seven things he hates.
And I can’t remember all of them. I know lying lips is one of them. I’m like, okay, girls, God hates lies. Like, we make sure that we do not lie. That’s one of the things God says he hates. So it’s, it’s very important for us as Christians to take note of the things that God hates and at what angers him.
Yes, it is.
He is slow to anger and wonderfully merciful in grace. But we still need to be aware of what angers our God.
We do. We do. Yeah. And this is why we have to be in the word too. If we cherry pick and we just read the I love you. Come to me, all you who are weary, I’ll give you rest. All truths.
All our favorite verses.
I know. But we don’t read about, he gets angry.
Then we don’t have the awe and the reverence and the respect that we also need to have for the being who created galaxies. Right?
Well, and it takes away some of the impact of his mercy too, if we don’t realize that he is this holy, powerful, wrathful, God..
Yes, that’s so true.
Then it’s like, oh, he’s merciful. Oh, okay. Well my Grammy’s merciful and she’s awfully kind and cuddly. So there’s no, there’s no real weight to that mercy.
Like he could wipe us out with a breath. And he withholds. And he has every right to do that.
He does. He does.
And yet he holds that back.
That makes it more.
So the mercy even is more, we’re more grateful for it.
Which we ought to be.
We should be.
For sure. So, well, the things I learned about God from this passage, number one, is that God does the work. Paul wasn’t able to stay. And I think you had mentioned this too. Sometimes we feel like we have to do it all.
And I think maybe this is why God pulled Paul away to show him that you were there, you planted, you wanted to be there, but yet they still grew despite hard times.
Cause I was doing the growing, you know? I think there’s another passage in the gospel. They talk about some will plant and some will harvest. And it’s not always us that plants, harvests, threshes, does all the, you know, farming things.
Clearly not a farmer.
Yeah. Love that.
So that we don’t have to do it all and that despite us God’s got ’em.
God will do the increase.
Yes. This is a really good, when your children go to college, listen to this episode again.
Because I’m like, no, I need to be there. I need to give you more advice.
And they’re like, no, no, you’re done Mother.
But wait, can you change your tire? Can you balance… okay, wait.
That’s so cool. So, okay, last thing. What do we learn about living wisely in troubled times? You can go first on this one. What did you learn about Living Wisely?
I know, I was thinking that we need to hold on to what we know is true.
So as troubles came, they held onto what they knew was true about the Lord. And they continued to grow. And then I was, what Paul was doing, he was encouraging other believers and he truly loved them.
So for me, like encourage my fellow believers going through trouble and truly love them and find people that will also do the same for me.
Encourage and love me.
Yes. Yes. Yes. Well, that’s the beauty of the family of God when it’s working as it ought to.
It is. Absolutely. I wrote, I need to try and try even when Satan blocks something that I believe is good, if it’s, you know, trying to witness to someone like Dad Gamble, don’t give up. You know, it took him decades to accept Jesus.
But persevere. I really got the thought that Paul kept trying to do that. So, and then we need to read the very words of God when we’re suffering. We need to not think we know it all. We need to go back to the word and back to the Word and back to the word again. And lastly, we need to not be shocked by suffering. Like it’s Wait, what I’m suffering? Duh? I remember somebody writing in a book that had cancer. She said, I’m not saying why me? I’m saying, why not me?
Why not me? People get cancer. Good people get cancer. Bad people get cancer.
Medium people get cancer. Cancer happens, you know?
And instead of why me? Why not me? Mm-hmm. We all are asked to carry across, we all have suffering in our lives. It shouldn’t be such a shock. Like, we can waltz through life with nothing.
So I thought that was, especially in troubled times, we need to think why not me?
Why not me? Yeah.
Oh, that’s a good one.
All right. Wow. So suffering times, let me pray for this cheery topic. Okay. Oh, Father God, I thank you for it though. I thank you fo these good words written to people that were suffering and that apply to us today because you allow suffering to occur today as well. Thank you, Father, thank you so much that you are greater than any suffering we endure. That you are able to help us persevere. That the glory that waits for us is, is so big that the suffering is gonna seem small someday. Father, bless everyone listening. Give them a week of joy, of knowing that you’re proud of them as they follow you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
I am very thankful that I’ve had very little suffering so far for believing in Jesus. This has been a good study, though. Who knows what lies ahead. May God make us all ready. How about you? Have you suffered because you love and honor the Lord Jesus. Tell us about it. We love hearing from you. Consider writing a review of the podcast too, or sharing it with a friend. Let’s help more people find this study and join us on this journey. And please do come back next week for episode 115, Unshaken. Paul continues to encourage those Christians to stay strong even when troubles surround them. We’re going to talk about how to stay unshaken in a world full of troubles. We hope you’ll join us.
Speaker 1 (29:58):
We are so glad you stopped for a while with us. The Sweet Selah Moments Podcast is a cooperative production of Word Radio and Sweet Selah Ministries. More information about this podcast can be found @SweetSelah.org. Thank you for joining us.
You can download and print the transcript here.